Anchoring Bias in Recall Data: Evidence from Central America uri icon

abstract

  • Self-reported retrospective survey data is widely used in empirical work but may be subject to cognitive biases, even over relatively short recall periods. This paper examines the role of anchoring bias in self-reports of objective and subjective outcomes under recall. We use a unique panel-survey dataset of smallholder farmers from four countries in Central America collected over a period of three years. We exploit differences between recalled and concurrent responses to quantify the degree of mental anchoring in survey recall data. We assess whether respondents use their reported value for the most recent period as a cognitive heuristic when recalling the value from a previous period, while controlling for the value they reported earlier. The results show strong evidence of sizeable anchoring bias in self-reported retrospective indicators for both objective measures (income, wages, and working hours) and subjective measures (reports of happiness, health, stress, and well-being). We also generally observe a larger bias in response to negative changes for objective indicators and a larger bias in response to positive changes for subjective indicators.

publication date

  • 2018
  • 2018